Monday, February 27, 2006

Knitting Olympics Wrap-up

Well, Jim, yesterday marked the end of the first Knitting Olympics. The competition was amazing.

You're right, Bob. And here to talk about her Olympic experience is Teri, from Leesburg, Virginia. As you may recall, her entry was a pair of Baltic mittens. Let's see how she did. So, Teri, it seemed that after a strong start, something happened and you lost that competitive fire.

Well, I wouldn't call the start especially strong, Jim. I didn't swatch and I didn't practice the plaiting technique before casting on. That slowed me down, especially when I read the instructions later and realized that I did it wrong. The other thing that slowed me down was my inability to count to five. It seems that I can only count to four.

But after those problems, it looks like you picked up steam and hit your stride. You were well on your way to completing the first mitten of the pair at the end of the first week of competition. What happened then?

You're right, Bob. I was so excited that I was on schedule, with very few tinking incidences. I just knew that success was within my reach. But after my Thursday knitting session, as I was assessing my work, I noticed a dropped stitch five rows earlier. This really threw me for a loop. I wasn't prepared for that level of problem solving and I didn't want to unknit five rows. So I took a rest day and pondered the problem.

What did you finally end up doing?

I tinked five rows early Saturday morning. I was able to pick up and keep knitting, but the fire just went out of me. As you know, half of the competition is psychological. I didn't have it in me to get up early to knit, work all day, then knit until midnight after I got home. I just sort of gave up.

But you completed one mitten, and it looks pretty good. The tension seems to be even, the pattern is pleasing, and the thumb pattern matches the mitten body pattern.

Yes, I completed the mitten on Saturday. But even that was dicey, Jim. After looking at Stephanie's color work and seeing how flat it was, I decided that the mitten was a failure. It was just too puckery. But I forgot about the magic of blocking. All the puckers just sort of steamed away and when all was said and done, I was quite pleased with my work. I'm disappointed, though, that I didn't have the fortitude and courage to push through my doubts and get to a point where I could complete the second mitten.

What are you taking away from your Olympic experience?

I've learned that I can knit things that I never thought I'd be knitting, Bob. When I saw Stephanie's MSF Latvian mittens last year, I was astounded at their beauty and just knew that I would never achieve that level of complexity, at least not any time soon. But after a brief flirtation with two-color knitting at Christmas, I was enchanted and decided to go for it. I've also learned that it is a mistake to listen to that little negative voice in my head.

And what's next for you?

I've got a lot of knitting that was put on hold, Jim. I plan to finish the second mitten. I'm in the process of knitting a baby blanket, which I need to finish. The baby came a little early and he had quite a rough start. He almost didn't make it. I'm happy to report that he's doing fine now and I'd like to finish the blanket by the time I visit them, which hopefully will be at the end of March.

Will you be competing in the next Knitting Olympics?

If they hold them again? Absolutely! It was a wonderful experience and it was very cool to be knitting, albeit virtually, with over 4000 others.

Well, Bob, that wraps it up for the 2006 Knitting Olympics. Many thanks to Stephanie and other members of the International Knitting Olympic Committee for sponsoring the competition. We look forward to the next competition, whenever that may be. Good night, and best wishes to all of the Knitting Olympics contenders.

Monday, February 20, 2006

It Looks Bad for the Baltic Mittens

Despite feeling that I hit my stride, events have conspired against me and the Baltic mittens. I've been merrily knitting along, watching listening to the Olympics, staying up way past my bedtime, just knowing that I was going to blow everyone away with the brilliance and beauty of the Baltic mittens.


I was knitting away on Thursday and was in a good position to complete the first mitten on Friday, pretty much on schedule. Then as I was admiring my handiwork, I noticed this little loop sticking out about five or six rows down.

Here's Teri coming down the row....looking good....great form....not too tense...but wait! Oh no, Jim, she's dropped a stitch! What a heartbreaker for this knitting powerhouse from Leesburg, Virginia!

Well, Bill, these are the setbacks that determine the true Olympians. Teri's shown a lot of guts and fortitude in the past, and I think she has what it takes to overcome this.

Bill, I've heard it said that Teri is "small but powerful." Do you think that is going to help her through the second half of the mitten biathalon?

Oh definitely, Jim. This is the time where true Olympians dig down deep and summon the strength to carry on. But you know, Jim, you can train and train, but you can't train for the thrill of actual competition, for the flood of adrenalin that comes as you approach the end of a row.

That's what makes these knitting Olympians great.

What to do? What to do? Do I ignore it and hope it goes away? Do I try to repair it in place? Do I tink back and fix it? Given that it was midnight and I was tired, I did what all good Olympians do...I went to bed.

I spent the next day pondering the recovery. And Saturday morning, when I examined the mitten, I knew I had but one choice. Tink, and tink some more. And you'd think that with the weekend here, I'd get in some good knitting time, but somehow life interfered. I was hoping to complete the first mitten by the end of the weekend. I'm not there yet. And the more I look at the mitten, the more I'm thinking that I've done a really bad job with the stranded knitting. No matter how much I spread the stitches, the mitten is puckering. It's on the flower part of the design, so it's tempting to say that it's a three-dimensional design element. And the mitten is going to be too big for my hand. And it doesn't look good enough to give as a gift. I'm going to keep working on it, but I'll only have one mitten completed by the time the Olympic flame is extinguished. There's no way I can knit the second mitten in five days and 15 hours.

Folks, stay tuned, we'll be joined shortly by former Russian knitting gold medalist Ivana Nitamiten.

(Knitting commentary playfully provided by Keith last week as I was relating my knitting woes to him.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

And They're Off!

So, the Knitting Olympics have begun! Because I foolishly went to work on Friday (very silly since we didn't get back from Costa Rica until after midnight), I couldn't cast on at 2:00pm. And then after work we went out for drinks with some friends. Finally, after a quick dinner, I gathered up my wool, needles, and pattern and cast on.

It was an inauspicious beginning. After plaiting two rounds, I read the pattern (imagine that) and realized that I did it wrong. So I called in the frogs and undid it all. At that point, it was too late and I was too tired to make a second attempt so off to bed I went.

I got a fresh start on Saturday. The casting on went well, the plaiting went well (but I haven't figured out how to keep the two balls of yarn from twisting together), and despite having to unknit a round or two here and there, the knitting is going well. I think I've hit my stride. But...I haven't gotten to the thumb part yet and I haven't gotten to the decreases in the chart yet. That will be the next hurdle. I'm almost done with the cuff and should start the main mitten pattern later today. If I can keep up the momentum, I have a decent shot at finishing both mittens by the time the Olympic Games end.

I must say that it is a bit thrilling (yes, I know, I'm a bit dorky) to be "competitively" knitting at the same time athletes are ski jumping, downhill racing, luging, figure skating, and speed skating. I feel the thrill of victory after having completed a particularly tricky bit in the pattern without having to tink. I feel the agony of defeat when I reach the end of a round and realize that somewhere I got off in the chart. I get teary-eyed when I see the winners of an event standing on the podium, listening to their national anthem. And knowing that I'm knitting with at least 4000 other Olympic knitters boggles my mind. Who would've thunk it?

Of Birds and Knitting
The trip to Costa Rica was quite nice. After we arrived at Cerro Coyote, we pretty much stayed there, primarily because the roads were so daunting (if you don't have a 4WD vehicle, it's difficult to get around). Getting from place to place is measured not by distance, but by time. And the time is usually measured in hours, not minutes. We didn't want to spend four hours or more on the road every day, so we hung out at the inn and relaxed and ate and knit and ate and relaxed and watched birds.

I added several new birds to my life list: keel-billed toucan, collared trogon, emerald toucan, blue-crowned mot-mot, white-eared ground sparrow, brown jay, common paurauque, black and white warbler, great kiskadee, Eastern meadowlark. My favorite, though, was the blue-crowned mot-mot. It's a gorgeous bird.

I got a fair amount of knitting done, too. I took three projects: Blue Danube socks, kittens baby blanket, and Dream socks. I almost completed the heel on the Blue Danube socks, but left the fifth needle at home so couldn't complete the turning. I knit a couple of rows on the baby blanket, but it was humid and the cotton yarn was being recalcitrant and I didn't make as much progress as I wanted. And the Dream socks were going quite well until I got to the heel. That's what I get for feeling smug about turning a heel and watching "Corpse Bride" at the same time. I managed to not get huge gaps with the yarn over short row, but somehow managed to end up with fewer stitches than I started out with. It's back to Frog Pond with the sock (but not until I finish the Knitting Olympics mittens and the baby blanket).

The hats were well-received by my nephews. Logan loves the earflap hat, according to my mother, and my brother says that Craig likes his hat, too. That makes me feel good. My brother said that I do good work, which is high praise coming from a man who raised two sons mostly on his own, works mega-hours at welding, has made his own fishing nets, and built a major addition to his house, all by himself. My brother impresses the heck out of me.

That's it for now. I might update this entry later with a picture of The Mitten.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Flying Away

Well, Tom and I are off to the mountains of Costa Rica for a week of relaxation, bird-watching, relaxation, cooking classes, relaxation... You get the picture. We'll be at The Inn at Coyote Mountain. It looks nice, but I think getting there will be an adventure.

Yes, there will be knitting. I've packed three knitting projects. Hopefully I'll be able to get some extreme knitting knitting in.

Our friend Brian is house and cat-sitting, the cab is arranged, we're packed. And now? It's off to bed. The plane takes off at 6:11 a.m. Ugh.

Adios, amigos y amigas!